Get sponsored or go for broke – Part 2 of 2

In my previous post I talked about the importance of sponsorship and maintaining good relations with your sponsor. In this article part 2 of 3 I will talk about the process of finding sponsors, attracting sponsors and entering into an agreement with a sponsor.

First and foremost let me clarify something – I am not a professional cyclist, I am a Cat 4 going on Cat 3 cyclist who manages a developmental team. Does that mean that myself or my team is not deserving of sponsorship? It depends on the team or the individual’s tenacity and willingness to work with a private business. I have a experience in advertising and marketing but this is not a requirement for securing sponsorship.

Below you will find my lessons learned from researching self sponsorship and assisting my teammates find sponsors. One thing is clear is that books can be written and courses taught on the subject of sports and athlete sponsorships. However this does not mean the new athlete is not capable of learning and even gaining sponsorships.

How to promote your self or your team

  • Be honest about you and your team’s efforts.
    • You might never meet your sponsor in person so they need to feel like you are a trust worthy marketing partner.
  • You should have your own personal blog and your team should have their own web site.
    • How else will a potential sponsor be able to check out you or your team.
    • Answer the following questions on your blog or site: Who, What, Where, How and Why.
  • Both your blog and team web site should be professional.
    • Your web site or blog does not have to be created by a professional web developer, it wouldn’t hurt, the language, photos and content on your blog and or web site should be of professional quality.
    • Your content should not be offensive to a potential sponsor
    • It is very likely that your blog or web site will be the first impression you make on a potential sponsor.
  • Tout you and or your team’s accomplishments as individuals and as a team. This should cover not only your race resume but events that your team hosts and even charities that your team supports.
    • Sponsors want to know what you can do for them. If you show a consistent effort as an athlete this goes a long way to convincing a potential sponsor you are worth their partnership.
  • A race resume should include the name of the race your category and your results. It doesn’t have to be anymore detailed then that.
    • While it may mean something to you that you trimmed 10 seconds off your TT it might not to a sponsor. Remember to keep it simple, non technical and honest.

Where to find sponsors

  • Sponsors are every where! Potential sponsors include strangers in elevators, local business, start ups, existing corporations…
    • Be prepared at moments notice to summarize you and or your team’s mission and accomplishments.
    • You need to be able to do this in 5 minutes or less and it should not be fast.
    • This is known as the elevator pitch and anymore investors look to this as a means to decide if they want to continue talking to you.
  • As a team you need to ask yourselves how far are we going to take this team. Are we a development team or are we heading for the elite and pro ranks?
    • Why is this important? If you are going pro your sponsors will need deeper pockets compared to a developmental team trying to pay Team Kit.
  • The first place to start is as friends and family about business owners who could be interested in sponsoring a local team.
    • Just mention that you are on a team that needs sponsor’s and that you would like to tell the prospective business how you think sponsoring your team will benefit their business.
  • Your club and your teammates are your best sponsors.
    • If you are a developmental/club team the lion share of your team costs needs to be covered by the teammates. Your club can also take portions of proceeds earned from supported tours to help off set the costs of a club and or developmental team. This really helps juniors who can not afford most of their equipment much less race fees and travel.
  • There are services on the interwebs that can help match you and your team to potential sponsors. Please finish the article before you click any of the following links or bust out Google.

How to apply for sponsorship

  • Write a sponsor letter and include the following
    • State your intentions: I athlete would like to request a sponsorship for?
    • High light key results, events managed, and charities supported
    • Explain why you want to represent the company you are seeking sponsorship from
    • Clearly state what you hope to receive in a sponsorship agreement
    • Close the letter with a call to action such as I will contact you to discuss the above and that you look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Do not be afraid to contact a sponsor after you have mailed your sponsor letter.
    • Give it a week before you call to follow up if you do not get through call back again but no more than a few times.
  • Create a sponsor proposal
  • The sponsor proposal is where the rubber hits the road. Once you have agreed to have a meeting with a potential sponsor now you are able to dive into more detail about your self or your team
    • You can provide more details about your self or team such as: Mission, Results and Goals
    • Do not be surprised to hear: “Great what’s in it for me or my company?” you must be prepared to answer this question.
  • When applying for a sponsorship http://www.loopd.com/ has an application process you must fill out. This makes it very easy to apply.
  • Do not forget to email or mail the potential sponsorship after an interview thanking them for their time.

Thoughts on entering into an agreement

  • Agreements can be as simple as a handshake and a check hand off from a very nice local business owner or a legally binding contract.
    • Be very careful with casual agreements many a friend, marriage and business has been destroyed when all parties do not understand what is expected of each other.
  • In my part 1 of this article I explained that road racing was a business even in the amateur ranks.
    • If you are sponsored by anyone you have agreed to do something.
    • If you are not sure you want this kind of responsibility then you need to hire a sports agent or leave this up to some one on your team who is willing and able.
    • The best intentions can make for big messes.
  • You must be prepared to live up to the agreement.
    • Do what you say you are going to do, its that easy. This means don’t make wild claims such as guaranteeing wins in races.
  • Think hard about seeking legal advice.
    • One of the cool things about racing and cycling is that it attracts quite a few professionals.
    • I wouldn’t be surprised that an attorney races for you, rides with your club or a teammate is friends with one.
  • Be a great steward!
    • Once you are sponsored you are expected to speak well about your sponsor and promote their products, services and interests.
    • Do this with smile on your face.

Some final thoughts

  • If its to good to be true it is.
    • If you are uncomfortable with a sponsors claims or promises walk away its that simple.
    • Trust your first impressions it will serve you well.
  • There are no industries off limits to sponsorship.
    • I actually disagree with this as my team has had opportunities with some unlikely sponsors that I think would not be a good fit.
    • However if you look at the pro teams they have been sponsored by all kinds of industries that don’t have anything to do with cycling.
    • Look to companies that have decision makers who have a passion for cycling.
  • The bigger the sponsor the more demands.
    • I recently spoke with another racer who shared with me that their team had taken a wrong turn when they agreed to a sponsorship from an internationally recognized brand.

If you have any questions or your own experiences to share I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment.

3 Comments on “Get sponsored or go for broke – Part 2 of 2”

  1. I’m taking this guidance for action concerning my team and personal sponsor search. Question:Do you know off-hand what complications arise when a racer wants to add his sponsor logos to the team’s kit and team sponsor logos?

    thx,
    -Eric

  2. Eric,

    No problem. The way I look at it is that Team sponsors and individual sponsors are separate. I asked all of my individual sponsor’s for wearable merchandise and in trade I would wear this when training at the gym and to wear after training rides. I will also be wearing before and after races. I also promised that I would load their graphics on my blog and introduce their products to some local stores which I have started to do. I will also be introducing all of my individual sponsors to my team and teammates. This helps me to set the stage for potential team and or event sponsorship in the future.

    Regards,

    Rob

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